Thursday, June 13, 2019

Harney-Lake County 2019

It has been awhile since any new blogs from me, lots of pelagic trips and adventures, but I have been a bit lazy documenting them all. Plus my pal, Huck, is up around 14 yrs. old, so I have been keeping the adventures a bit toned down recently.   I did go to some fun new areas in Harney and Lake counties this year, well worthy of a blog report.

Below is map of areas covered.  Color coded by the day.

First stop was Summer Lake.  This Western Willet was feeding near the road. I have yet to see an Eastern Willet in Oregon.  Eastern are smaller, bills are heavier, stockier, and not as finely pointed. Eastern have shorter legs, and a bit darker in plumage, and calls are slightly different.

I spent most of my time up in the mountains, so I did not see another avocet or stilt until I headed  home by way of Burns.  This is a male American Avocet.

Black-necked Stilt

Wednesday (6/5) I had a fine meal at the Snack Shack, my fav spot for a burger in Lakeview. west on 140 about 3 blocks, then I went up to Mud Creek Campground in the Warner Mtns (yellow spots on map).  I was going to camp near a nice spot for Fox Sparrows, but the skeeters were fierce there and the woods were in the process of being thinned.  Mud Creek had very few bugs and was a nice spot to bird in the morning.  Ebird list is below. 

Mallard  2
Wilson's Snipe  3
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Great Horned Owl  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
sapsucker sp.  1
Northern Flicker  2
Dusky Flycatcher  3
Warbling Vireo  5
Steller's Jay  2
Mountain Chickadee  5
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  4
Mountain Bluebird  3
Hermit Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Cassin's Finch  4
Red Crossbill  6
Dark-eyed Junco  5
White-crowned Sparrow  5
Green-tailed Towhee  5
Red-winged Blackbird  6
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Black-headed Grosbeak  2

The sapsucker on the list had an almost pure white belly, I assumed it was of the southern race.

Thursday I went down 140 and turned north on Beatys Butte Road (light purple markers).   I had already chickened out of trying to get up a direct road to Shirk Ranch, I probably could have made it but did not want to get stuck. Anyway, my idea was to get to Shirk Lake from the east on a side road.  That road was also a mess.  But the area near the interchange was full of Sagebrush Sparrows.

Looking south on Beatys Butte Road, road to Shirk Lake off to right. Shirk Lake and the mouth of the Guano Creek looks like an interesting migrant trap, I need to get there end of May , early June.  

Info on Shirk Lake:  Birding Shirk Lake

Loggerhead Shrike were common all along Beatys Butte Rd

Sagebrush Sparrow

After birding around the interchange and trying to get down road to Shirk and bailing on that idea twice, I headed off in opposite direction to see if any trees were at Spalding Reservoir. No trees, but a nice spot.

Ebird list for the reservoir.

Cinnamon Teal  1
Gadwall  2
American Wigeon  12
Northern Pintail  1
Western Grebe  1
American Coot  3
Killdeer  4
Gray Flycatcher  2
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Cliff Swallow  14
Rock Wren  3
Brewer's Sparrow  5
Sagebrush Sparrow  3
Western Meadowlark  2
Brewer's Blackbird  5

A nice little wetland was down below the dam.

After the reservoir, I came back down to Beatys Butte Rd and continued north to Willow Springs.  

One tree, an old house and lots of water.

Ebird list for the springs:

California Quail  5
Prairie Falcon  1
Western Wood-Pewee  2
Say's Phoebe  1
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Warbling Vireo  2
Horned Lark  3
Rock Wren  1
European Starling  5
Brewer's Sparrow  4
Vesper Sparrow  2
Western Meadowlark  3
Yellow Warbler  2

After a fun day exploring the Guano Valley, I went over to Cottonwood Creek just south of Fields, a Swainson's Hawk was patrolling the skies.

Friday morning brought clouds and iffy weather.  The Pueblos were enveloped in thick clouds and a harsh wind.  I knew the weather would clear by mid-day so I goofed around Fields in the morning then headed up Arizona Creek at noon. (green markers)

Hmm, does not capture the beauty of all the flowers..

After a windy hike, I made it up to the ridge where I have seen Gray-headed Junco before.  I got up o on a rock outcrop, sat and had lunch.  I was hoping some juncos would come by in the blustery conditions.  None did, nor did I hear one, maybe, I heard one short song, but could not confirm or find bird.

View of area while eating lunch.

Ebird list while I sat:

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
Cassin's Finch  6
Brewer's Sparrow  7
Vesper Sparrow  3
Green-tailed Towhee  5
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
MacGillivray's Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3

And some of the birds that came by for a visit. Cassin's Finch.

Green-tailed Towhee.

Weather pouring over the Steens Mountain.

I left as a small snow shower past by the ridge.  Now I have to go back to confirm the juncos still are indeed there.

The next day I headed up Domingo Pass Road. Orange markers on map.  I wanted to work my way south to an area above Willow Creek, Google Maps calls the area Willow Creek Pockets.  I was told many years ago that it was a good spot for birds, but have never tried to get there,

Domingo Pass Rd is in great shape, a fork in the road puts you on a less than perfect road but perfectly fine for any SUV.  Right past this tree (Poplar?), I ran into a water pool, I was a tad afraid to attempt, fortunately I spied a white pickup coming up road behind me. They stopped and chatted, very nice folks, I told them I was waiting for them to go first, they had no trouble with water so I continued on following them.  We got another two miles or so south before we hit a bog that neither vehicle would cross.  So I stopped and hiked my way south. 

Random spring and resident tree, marked on map.

Walking south along the road you cross a few small drainages.  

Sage Thrasher are common.

I had to be more careful with my towhee calls, a few Spotted Towhees were mixed in with all the Green-tailed.

Fields of flowers were common. The bitterbrush was also in bloom.

Seems you can no longer block Youtube from suggesting videos at the end of your videos, what a pain.  A video of Willow Creek as you approach from north.

Cedar Waxwings

Lazuli Bunting

MacGillivray's Warbler.

Song Sparrow, southeastern Oregon version.  I found a few Fox Sparrows but they proved to be very shy.

White-crowned Sparrow, oriantha subspecies.

Black-headed Grosbeak.

Lots of varieties of moths and butterflies were seen.  With my luck, this is an invasive pest, but they were everywhere.

There is a nice road that works its way uphill along the edge of the stream.  It is on the south side so sun is behind your back.

Lots of water.

The upper end of road goes into a beautiful woods,  I was surprised not to find any Red-naped Sapsuckers.  A similar woods high on the Steens would have any number of them.  No Long-eared Owls spotted as well, another surprise, I always manage to stumble across a few up in these woods in the Pueblos.

It was hard to spot, but there was an old cabin in the woods.  Inside was rather unpleasant.  A few bunks and an old mattress.  I was trying to come up with a slogan for this AirBnB, I came up with "Stay with us, you'll never be alone on one of our mattresses".

The book on the shelf was a Readers Digest short story collection.

Surprised to see beaver action up there.

It took me an hour to hike from car to creek, 2.5 hours there and an hour back, so 4.5 hours in total.

Ebird list:

Mourning Dove  5
hummingbird sp.  1     darn thing blasted past me, no trill and not a Calliope
Turkey Vulture  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Western Wood-Pewee  23
Gray Flycatcher  2
Dusky Flycatcher  9     count over a mile
Warbling Vireo  20
American Crow  3
Common Raven  1
Violet-green Swallow  5
Bushtit (Interior)  11
Rock Wren  2
House Wren  1
American Robin  5
Sage Thrasher  3
European Starling  2
Cedar Waxwing  5
Cassin's Finch  8
Brewer's Sparrow  6
Fox Sparrow  3
White-crowned Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  5
Green-tailed Towhee  4
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  1
Brewer's Blackbird  2
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  20
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  1
Lazuli Bunting  17

After exploring area for 2.5 hours, I went back to car and made my way back to the lone tree.  I hiked up to the small spring.

Tree, stream down hill and small pond that is on private property.

Ebird list for spring:

California Quail  5
Gray Flycatcher  2
Warbling Vireo  2
American Robin  3
Brewer's Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  5
Green-tailed Towhee  4
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Yellow Warbler  5
Lazuli Bunting  3

Better photos of a SE Oregon Song Sparrow.

Water just coming out of the side of a hill:

Saturday night I had my required power meal at Frenchglen then headed up to South Steens Campground.  

Wild horses along the road.

Sunday morning I spent a short time at Riddle Brother's Ranch.  Looks like another good migrant trap.  Two vultures focused in on a tired birder.

I headed home up 205 to Burns, swing out on to Ruh-Red Road for a few water birds.

Barn Swallow

My favorite duck, Blue-winged Teal.

Fun trip, covered lots of fun areas, can't wait to get back next spring! 

Thanks much for the visit.


  1. Lovely reporting! where would you recommend in early July where we could drive with a compact mini SUV..conventional front wheel drive, and hike without goo much elevation bird browse..? Thank you! Joanna in Eugene

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